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How Aussie travel agents helped after US airport shooting

January 12, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Shortly after an apparently crazed gunman exploited a fatal flaw in airline gun security rules to shoot and kill people at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, Australian travel managers sprang into action to help a client in distress.

The Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting has sparked major debate among US security and airport experts. See: Will crazed gunman’s airport spree change the rules?

In the midst of it all, an Australian client was caught up in the shooting and required urgent assistance. That would not normally be an issue for a TravelManagers’ personal travel manager, even when the initial contact came in at 11.30pm. The fact that the client’s personal travel manager was temporarily without full Amadeus access could easily have been a recipe for disaster.

9mm automatic pistol


Fortunately, that was not so, thanks to the quick thinking of personal travel manager Deborah Davies representative for Woombye in Queensland, who used the TravelManagers PTM forum to reach out to fellow personal travel managers to assist.

“I was out for the night visiting friends and didn’t have my business laptop with me,” Davies related.

“When I received the text message from my client needing urgent assistance with contacting their travel insurance provider and flight information on getting out of Fort Lauderdale I found inputting additional client details on my mobile phone more difficult than expected! So I thought I would see if there were any other personal travel managers awake who could assist me.”

It wasn’t long before fellow personal travel manager Kerry Bianchi, representative for Eumundi in Queensland answered Davies’ request for help.

Personal Travel Manager Deborah Davies and PTM colleague Kerry Bianchi


Bianchi’s desire to assist was without question.

“I had just gone to bed when I saw Deborah’s Facebook message so I offered to help. I have had wonderful personal travel managers answer my calls for help and provide assistant late at night in the past and I’m a great believer in paying it forward. We brainstormed ideas for other airports they could fly into and out of and then I entered the required passenger date of births to the flight PNRs into Amadeus for the six passengers that Deborah was unable to do via her phone.”

If two personal travel managers collectively working on finding a solution to get clients out of a tragic and apparent life-threatening situation well into the small hours of the morning is not testament to going the extra mile for clients, add in the fact that the client hadn’t actually initially booked the flights through the personal travel manager and you can truly see the value a personal travel manager provides.

“The clients had booked their airfares with an online Travel Agent (OTA) and they were not receiving any meaningful assistance from the airline staff on the ground or their OTA which they had booked with. Out of frustration they called me and were very grateful for my assistance knowing what time it was in Brisbane.”

Thanks to company’s NPO Disaster Management Plan being enacted, TravelManagers’ personal travel managers were all quickly alerted to the Fort Lauderdale shooting incident, receiving an internal update of the situation and access to any passengers affected.

“TravelManagers has a process when an incident occurs anywhere in the world the NPO will provide personal travel managers a Passenger Location Report to identify if clients may be impacted and require assistance. This gives our clients piece of mind that no matter if tragedy strikes, their personal travel manager will be aware immediately and be there to support and provide assistance, just as Deborah was able to do for her client,” says Pru Gallagher, TravelManager’ Operations Manager.

In a cruel twist of fate, Gallagher had a cousin who was also at Fort Lauderdale Airport at the time of the shooting.

“It was horrible.  My cousin arrived home to her very relieved and thankful parents in Atlanta late Sunday. She was holed up with an ATF agent and a couple of other passengers for quite some time. It won’t be an experience she will forget in a hurry.”

The sudden speed and deliberation with which the gunman whipped out a Walther 9mm automatic pistol from his belt and opened fire is shown on surveillance footage taken on a camera at the airport:


TravelManagers is pleased to report Davies’ client and friends are back safe and sound in Australia along with three other clients that were in the Fort Lauderdale area around the time of the shooting. They have also been contacted by their personal travel manager and were able to continue with their holiday plans unaffected.

TravelManagers pointed out yesterday that it represents an example of a company utilising technology to its fullest extent. It said the events and response clearly demonstrated that the personal travel manager model, with its blend of online presence and personal service, “is the future of the travel industry”.

“Emergencies, natural disasters, flight cancellations, accidents and illnesses do not always happen conveniently between 9am and 5pm as this tragic situation shows,” noted TravelManagers’ executive general manager, Michael Gazal.

“The ability to work anytime, day or night on any booking truly shows that TravelManagers really offers a superior level of personal service and flexibility to all clients.”

Gazal commended Davies’ quick thinking PTM forum initiative and Bianchi’s instantaneous willingness to assist as resonating perfectly with the TravelManagers family-based values.

“We actively encourage this type of peer community support both from a business and social point of view. Deborah and Kerry certainly deliver on TravelManagers’ philosophy of providing personal, consistent and exceptional client service.  This example shows our personal travel managers really care about their clients and will go above and beyond no matter what the circumstances – even when they have booked services with other providers we are still there to assist. This type of personal service is invaluable and representative of our 500 personal travel managers across Australia.”

For Davies, this experience highlighted again how much she loves being part of the TravelManagers family.

“You know the old saying of two heads are better than one. In TravelManagers case it is 500 personal travel managers heads just a phone call away should you need it. We really are one big family and I wouldn’t want it any other way.” 

Edited by Peter Needham

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